Mona Eltahawy, an award winning American Egyptian feminist and journalist cancelled a lecture that she was supposed to give at the Dutch ‘De Balie’. Two years ago, the debate center in Amsterdam hosted a controversial discussion about ‘banning Muslims’, and for Eltahawy that was the reason to critically look into the center and cancel her planned lecture.
The ‘Muslim ban’
Eltahawy was invited on Wednesday to talk about what happens after the #metoo discussion, but had to cancel her lecture. In her statement on twitter she says that ‘De Balie’ has been a venue in the past for an event by a far right-wing political part. On that event, the deportation of Muslims was discussed. She then asked feedback from Dutch friends and took a closer look to the center which made her question whether or not she wanted to speak there. In her statement, she also apologizes to the people who bought tickets.
Statement made by ‘De Balie’
‘De Balie’ regrets Eltahawy’s decision and believe that she received inaccurate information about the evening. In their statement they say: “In the wake of this event, we stated on various occasions and on several platforms that we distance ourselves from his views, just as we reject the views of Imam Haitham al-Haddad who advocates the death penalty for apostates and was a guest at De Balie in 2012.”
Eltahawy replied to their statement: “1. This misrepresents my statement about why I cancelled my appearance. 2. Defending the use of De Balie by far-right extremists by saying we’ve had an extremist from the Muslim side too is repugnant, because both sides are equally repugnant and dangerous to me.”
She says that her announcing the cancellation was not only because of that one event. Dutch people of color brought to her attention that the boycott of ‘De Balie’ has been going on for a while. They wanted to hear her speak, but refused to come. She did not want to force people to choose between the venue and their principles.
‘De Balie’s’ boycot is not new
People of color have been boycotting ‘De Balie’ for two years now, it just wasn’t newsworthy until Eltahawy decided to cancel her lecture there. Since the debate ‘Why do they hate us?’ in 2017, a lot of people decided to not attend any events there. It was an islamophobic and extremely insensitive discussion led by white men and a moderator who did not once, nuance their statements. The question remains: where do we draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?